By Kester Kenn Klomegah
Russian business lobbying groups together with about 40 business and industry heads have shown interest in exporting Russian products to African markets but said they were faced with difficulties in accessing market facilitation procedures with a number of African countries.
Under the auspices of Delovaya Rossia (Business Russia), the group, in an effort to understand some of the processes and procedures, held a special seminar moderated by Delovaya Rossia Vice President, Nonna Kagramanya.
In her opening remarks, she noted the important role of “Business Russia” as a single platform where representatives of government, development institutions and private business can constructively discuss emerging issues and possible solutions on various foreign economic tracks.
In particular, despite the relatively small trade turnover with African countries, Russian companies are very interested in establishing stable long-term contacts with African partners.
“We clearly understand that this potential needs to be properly structured, the infrastructure of interaction between all players, including representatives of embassies, and the map of the interests of Russian business and the needs of African markets should be built,” she told the seminar gathering.
To this end and as a first step, Kagramanyan proposed to create a permanent discussion-line for all interested participants of the seminar in order to discuss a set of priority problems and barriers when working with Africa.
Contributing to the discussion, General Director of Intelnexus, Anatoly Yakimenko, introduced the seminar participants to the opportunities for the development of Russian-African business cooperation, noting the favourable and hindering factors in the African market.
He stressed the request for potential exporters of Russian high-tech production and solutions, the need to expand initiatives for more effective positioning of high-tech companies in Africa.
On his part, Deputy Director of the Department of Asia, Africa and Latin America of the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation, Alexander Dianov, spoke about the non-financial support measures for Russian companies operating within the department, informed that “currently, there are 10 intergovernmental commissions between the Russian Federation and African countries.”
At the same time, he said that “there are trade missions only in four African countries, and if you take sub-Saharan Africa countries, the trade mission operates effectively only in South Africa. It is obvious that there is something to work on in terms of developing the infrastructure to support Russian business. If there is a serious request from the business community, we are ready to expand the geography of our presence.”
Official Representative of the Russian Export Center (REC) in Africa, Dmitry Suchkov, drew the attention of companies to the need for in-depth analysis of national programs of economic and investment development of African countries.
He pointed out to the work of the REC in the analysis of existing barriers through a special navigator. Suchkov also spoke about the initiatives of the Coordinating Committee for Economic Cooperation with Sub-Saharan Africa.
Chairperson of the Board of the African Business Initiative (ABI), Natalia Zaiser pointed to the problems of ensuring security and stable “rules of the game”, as well as the need to identify five priority areas of business cooperation on the medium-term and long-term perspectives for individual African countries.
Mostly Southern and Eastern African diplomats attended the event. Representatives of the Embassies of Rwanda, Tanzania and South Africa spoke about the integration processes on the African continent, the potential of regional markets and national development initiatives.
Members of diplomatic missions also noted the great unrealized potential of cooperation between Russia and African countries, interest in attracting investments in infrastructure, education and many other sectors, and called for the willingness of wider interaction between African business circles and Russian business.
During the discussion, the participants noted barriers to Russian-African trade and economic cooperation as high import duties, complicated certification procedure, high cost of products, expensive logistics, security and guarantees issues, and information vacuum. However, the participants agreed on the need to develop a comprehensive strategy for Russia to work with Africa. Kester Kenn Klomegah reports from Moscow, Russia.
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